Awhile back, I saw a thread on EN World called DM personal training — and although it faded out pretty quickly, the idea really grabbed me.
Many hobbies have pretty obvious metrics by which you can track your improvement — but not GMing. If you’re into mountain biking, for example, it’s easy to tell when you’re doing better: If you’re going further, faster, on tougher trails, you’re getting better at it.
Not so with GMing — the best GMs can do is try to gauge their players’ enjoyment of their games, along with their own level of enjoyment, and ask for feedback from time to time (which can be problematic in its own right).
But are GM workouts a viable idea? And if so, what would a GM workout look like?
Some useful suggestions cropped up in the EN World thread, before it got sidetracked — my favorite is this one, by Django:
One thing you could try is videotaping yourself for a session. I guarantee you’ll find the result both illuminating and disturbing.
It’s not a workout per se, but I can see how watching yourself run a session would provide you with some concrete examples of your strengths and weaknesses as a GM (and provide great fuel for your naughty list). In fact, I’d love to give this one a try sometime.
In response to the idea of trying to up the number of, say, puzzles that you included in your games each time (which sounds a bit problematic), Kid Charlemagne said that he did something similar:
I would take a rule, and find a way to implement it in that week’s game.
When you’re running a game for the first time, or GMing one with some fiddly rules (grappling in d20, anyone?), this sounds like a pretty solid way to set benchmarks by which you can track your progress. This would be helped along by the fact that you have a definable goal, one where doing more “reps” could apply — rather than a soft goal, like “have more fun at this session than we did at the last one.”
There’s nothing wrong with that goal — it’s one of the most important goals you can have as a GM! — but it doesn’t lend itself to easy tracking. And that seems like the main problem with the whole concept of GM workouts: Meaningful goals, like becoming a better GM, are easy to come up with, but it’s hard to track your progress towards meeting those goals.
So how about it: Are GM workouts a viable concept? If so, how would you implement them?